Global 10/27/14 newyorker.com: by Richard Preston – “The Ebola Wars: How genomics research can help contain the outbreak.” Notable excerpts: “The most dangerous outbreak of an emerging infectious disease since the appearance of H.I.V., in the early nineteen-eighties, seems to have begun on December 6, 2013, in the village of Meliandou, in Guinea, in West Africa, with the death of a two-year-old boy who was suffering from diarrhea and a fever. We now know that he was infected with Ebola virus. The virus is a parasite that lives, normally, in some as yet unidentified creature in the ecosystems of equatorial Africa. This creature is the natural host of Ebola; it could be a type of fruit bat, or some small animal that lives on the body of a bat—possibly a bloodsucking insect, a tick, or a mite.”
“Health authorities in Europe and the United States seem equipped to prevent Ebola from starting uncontrolled chains of infection in those regions, but they worry about what could happen if Ebola got into a city like Lagos, in Nigeria, or Kolkata, in India. The number of people who are currently sick with Ebola is unknown, but almost nine thousand cases, including forty-five hundred deaths, have been reported so far, with the number of cases doubling about every three weeks.”
“The virus is believed to be transmitted, in particular, through contact with sweat and blood, which contain high concentrations of Ebola particles. People with Ebola sweat profusely, and in some instances they have internal hemorrhages, along with effusions of vomit and diarrhea containing blood.”
“In what’s known as droplet infection, the virus can travel inside droplets of fluid released into the air when, for example, a person coughs. The droplets travel only a few feet and soon fall to the ground. . . . A rule of thumb among Ebola experts is that, if you are not wearing biohazard gear, you should stand at least six feet away from an Ebola patient, as a precaution against flying droplets.”
“Some patients with Ebola become disoriented, struggle and thrash, and fall out of bed. They can get a bloody nose, which makes them sneeze. They can have projectile vomiting, and they can cough while they are vomiting. Some become incontinent, and all the fluids that come out of their bodies are increasingly saturated with Ebola particles.”
“(Drs.) Gire and Sabeti’s group also found that the virus had started in one person. It could have been the little boy in Meliandou, but there is no way to tell for sure right now”
“In addition to many drug candidates, there are vaccines in development.”
Author’s Note: If Ebola experts recommend a six-foot clearance from Ebola patients to avoid flying droplets from a coughing, sneezing or vomiting Ebola-infected passenger, and if these infected individuals develop diarrhea and become incontinent and could possibly contaminate toilet and even passenger seats, how can it possibly be safe to fly on any commercial aircraft? And as long as people coming into the U.S. from Ebola-endemic countries are not quarantined for a period of 21 days, how can passenger trains and commercial buses be safe?
This is a rather lengthy and very moving article about the heroes on the front line in the war against Ebola and well worth reading.
For complete article see http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/10/27/ebola-wars